Advent 3 Sermon, 2021

“Now when John [the Baptist] heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me’” (Matthew 11:2-6).

But why would anyone be offended at the deeds of the Christ?

Well—John might be offended because there seems to be a difference in the actual deeds of the Christ and what John has said the Christ would do.

John the Baptist says in Matthew chapter three: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12).

John’s not wrong.

Jesus says, “Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

John the Baptist is exactly right.

The Christ will clear His threshing floor, gather His wheat, and burn the chaff.

John’s test is one of patience, so it seems, because the Christ isn’t doing that yet.

So will John be offended at the deeds of the Christ?

Will he look for another or worship the one?

You might not think so at first, but the deeds of the Christ can be offensive.

Some of the blind and deaf would be offended because some of the blind and deaf aren’t comfortable admitting that there’s something wrong with them, something lacking, something that needs to be healed.

If you became hard of hearing later in life, you might rejoice to have your hearing restored.

But if you grew up deaf and identify more with sign language than spoken language, it’s a defeatist attitude that admits there’s something that needs to be healed—or something that’s wrong—or something that’s lacking—with your ears.

With the lepers and the lame, you might not think it possible to be offended at being healed, but so many in our time identify with their disease.

You know similar stories to the ones I could tell you—some people who can work full-time don’t work full-time, because they don’t want to lose their disability.

Remove the disease and you remove the government subsidized excuse to underachieve.

Some people would rather be lepers.

And some people want the handicapped parking tag, not because they need the closer spot but because they’re lazy and demand the convenience of it.

Some people would rather be lame—or lame enough.

The dead, you might think, would want to get back up, but not if they’re with Jesus.

I’m not talking about the resurrection unto eternal life, for which we all wait and hope.

I’m talking about getting back up and realizing you’re still in Missouri.

I’m from Missouri. I love living in Missouri.

But after I die, I’m hoping for better.

To depart and be with Christ is far better than to be here in the flesh (cf. Philippians 1:23-24).

Those who die in Christ are better off.

Which leaves us with the poor having good news preached to them.

Sometimes the poor just don’t believe it.

It doesn’t take much abuse before you begin hearing good news with jaded, skeptic cynicism.

And then, sometimes, the poor don’t want to be considered poor.

Just as there are those without shame who want to be considered lepers, there are those who are so ashamed they will not be considered poor.

They won’t accept help, because they won’t accept that they need it.

Sometimes that’s admirable, but sometimes that’s not.

Theologically—that kind of pride condemns.

So—Jesus says, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6).

But why would anyone be offended at the deeds of the Christ?

Because the deeds of the Christ identify Jesus as the one in whom there is salvation.

“There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (cf. Acts 4:12).

He is King, and God, and Sacrifice.

Jesus is offensive because He forgives sin.

His deeds are offensive because they show what forgiveness, ultimately, looks like.

The Gospel is offensive because it truly treats everyone the same—forgiving the transgression and covering the sin.

We’re offended, because we don’t like admitting to sin.

By the deeds of the Christ, the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have good news preached to them.

The deeds of the Christ reveal the new creation, what forgiveness ultimately looks like.

What the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting will look like.

Eyes that see. Legs that walk. Ears that hear.

With all flesh made new.

Death defeated.

And only good news preached.

We’re not promised those things this side of the resurrection. In fact, this side of the resurrection, we expect our bodies to fail and death to win out.

This side of the resurrection, we expect bad news.

So Jesus causes the good news to be preached to us poor, miserable sinners.

And—blessed is the one who is not offended by Him.

The deeds of the Christ teach us what it means to be in Christ—that we will receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.

That we will be renewed in body, mind, and soul.

He showed them what will be—and we hear the good news—so that we would believe and be saved.

Do you want relief for your ailing body?

Relief from the wage of sin?

Do you want there to be peace on earth and mercy mild?

What you want, then, is for God and sinners to be reconciled—the forgiveness of your sins.

Don’t be offended when you hear that you have sins.

Don’t be offended by your need for forgiveness, your need for a Savior.

Don’t be offended by the Savior.

“Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9).

Behold, the Lord God comes with might.

Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before him.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus says, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6).

And what He means is—

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).

Blessed are you—and all believers in Christ.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Advent 3, 2021
Matthew 11:2-11
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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